The ongoing global pandemic and its economic impact have presented businesses around the world with many unknown frontiers. As lockdowns are gradually being lifted across geographies, a key challenge is gradually re-entering the workspace, with regards to optimum productivity along with optimum workplace safety. With the right tools and resources, it is possible for companies to deliver an effective and successful ‘re-entry strategy’ for their businesses as well as their employees.
Physical spaces and workplace dynamics are now being re-thought, re-drafted, and re-designed to allow for the changing aspirations of talent as well as of businesses. Although workplaces had already begun transforming for a new millennia pre-Covid, the global pandemic has perhaps sped up a process that would otherwise have taken years to come across the board.
As businesses start to witness recovery across sectors, there is a heightened realisation to become more agile vis-a-vis the work environment. Corporates are increasingly becoming more flexible and catering to the needs of the workforce in the new normal even as many companies’ focus remains on business continuity.
Changing Company Culture
Re-designing the workplace at such a scale and detail can hardly exclude a change in company culture. Such change, undoubtedly, needs to be implemented with a top-down approach, where flexibility will be key for employers as well as employees. Creating and promoting a culture of continuous learning, for example, may be a great, forward-looking strategy in these disruptive times.
This is where leadership could step in to initiate a lot more discussion about new ideas and new ways of doing things. New learnings, exchanging ideas, and fostering a flexible, innovative spirit could become a collaborative process in organisations of the future.
Work-Life Balance Or Life-Work Balance?
It is time for the larger picture to take centre stage in the corporate world. If nothing else, the time for reflection that the lockdown has afforded organisations and talent alike is the futility of blindly promoting a ‘work-centred’ world where ‘life’ takes a backstage. Such an approach can never succeed, because it is foolish to assume that ‘work’ can subsume ‘life’ when the reality is that ‘work’ will always be a part or our ‘lives’. And a part can never become larger than the whole.
Organisations will now be more mindful of the social and emotional aspects of life, incorporating office designs that cater to the social needs of their employees. For instance, the work-from-home (WFH) experiment that numerous companies have followed during this period has demonstrated that at least for some industries, it is possible to get work done remotely. It has also shown that work can be done on a variety of schedules to best suit the preference and personal commitments of employees. As offices slowly reopen, employers can expect pressure to maintain this flexibility, particularly from employees who are also caregivers of children, the elderly or of loved ones who are unwell.
Talent Optimisation And Retention
In these changing times, organisations will now be increasingly focusing on talent optimisation as well as retention. Employers will have to create brand ambassadors and marketers in the organisation to attract fresh talent as well as retain incumbents. Employee engagement strategies and enhancing the experience of those working in an organisation will be other avenues for employers to retain their top talent and engage with new recruits.
Health And Safety
The best foot forward for most companies in this crisis is a ‘safety first’ approach, which prioritises the safety and wellbeing of employees, along with their productivity and efficiency. Supporting the mental, emotional, physical as well as financial well-being of employees will gain the confidence and loyalty of not just the employees but the stakeholders across in a post-pandemic scenario. For their part, incumbent employees as well as fresh talent are also likely to choose health and safety benefits over all other concerns from their organisations.
Tele-health options at work, for instance, will likely become a fast emerging trend to address the physical and mental wellbeing of employees. Organisations can also re-design their workplaces by increasing hot-desking, sanitisation measures and strict guidelines to operate within physical work premises. Moreover, firms can leverage new innovative technology to trace the live health status of employees, their families and neighbourhoods, as well as for counselling and supporting employees with mental health problems.
Sustainable Long-Term Strategies
Strategies that organisations choose to implement today, the paths they choose to walk down, will have a long-term impact on their ‘brand’ image. Images of inclusive work environments, work cultures of innovation and continuous learning, of zero tolerance for non-transparency, etc., have a chance to get created today. After all, how often are people or organisations given a second chance? This is the time to make the most of an opportunity to craft sustainable strategies for tomorrow’s world.
The impact of the ongoing pandemic has impacted all sides of the spectrum and both the employer and the employee are today grappling with unprecedented situations. With WFH becoming the new normal, we foresee the relationship between employer and employee becoming increasingly digitised and flexible.
The key to successful work cultures will be the ability to change and adapt as swiftly as possible. While challenges remain, this situation has presented the entire ecosystem with an abundance of opportunities to innovate and learn from it.